In our youth the best of our teachers encourage us to reach for the stars. Still others caution that a man’s reach should not exceed his grasp. Personally I am all for star reaching, otherwise heaven no longer seems possible.
I believe we should be guided by our goals, to be strong and push ourselves into the world with enterprise and audacity.
But all ambition aside, where is the wisdom in relying solely on the forceful thrust of unbridled drive and forward momentum? None of us wants to come across as the proverbial 800 pounds of angry pot roast gracelessly slamming through a china shop. A degree of restraint is wise in every endeavor, professional and personal.
Police actions have much to learn from the tragedy at Kent State. Anyone in a position of power owes as much of their leadership ability to strength as they do to a coolness of temperament. When strength is moderated with restraint, civility invariably prevails.
My daughter has remarked that she is drawn to bad boys, though it hasn’t always worked out to her advantage. I would offer the best kind of bad boy attitude would be one of potential. If the potential were the dominant factor, then perhaps the restraint behind it would carry the sex appeal. There’s something alluring in the awareness of someone’s danger and intensity while trusting they have the self-possession not to act on it.
It breaks my heart that few of her bad boys have possessed that restraint.
I agree that balance is very much the fundamental factor in deciding between discretion and zeal. A charitable organization asks why we do not give in all directions? Might it be for fear of losing ourselves? As Henry Miller noted, “Until we lose ourselves, there is no hope of finding ourselves.”
On the other hand, I have to smile at Mae West’s observation that, “I like restraint — if it doesn’t go too far.”
Of course the old adage still applies — that the secret to being a colossal bore is to tell everything. One of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card, said, “Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.”
Though a sparing tongue will serve you well, the human heart has only so much wisdom when it comes to what to say — or more importantly, whether to say it at all.
I hesitate to offer advice to anyone when it comes to matters of the heart. But I did write this poem as a cautionary tale to myself that restraint is a scalpel and a sword with the power to both heal and harm.
(© 2013 Michael J. Cahill)
Thought brevity nice
If he queried you once
He would never ask twice
Was painfully shy
Though she wanted to speak
She would let it go by
When Benny met Bonnie
They both felt the same
Would make a nice name
But Bonnie and Benny
Were never to wed
Though they both loved each other
It was always… unsaid